The project of 251 apartments in Gahanna clears the first obstacle
A development project of 251 apartments at 5503 Morse Road is set to enter a second phase of approvals after residents and homeowner and condo association leaders expressed their thoughts on the matter.
The $50 million residential project, called Morse Road 14, would cover 13.96 acres and is planned by Stonehenge Co., which previously worked with the town of Gahanna to build Creekside, a public-private development in the town center.
At a public hearing on the plan held at the October 17 council meeting, planning director Michael Blackford said the order before council focused solely on a proposal to rezon the site – and not on the scope of the project itself.
After the public hearing, council approved the rezoning of the site from residential to multi-family residence.
Blackford said the residential estate allows single-family residences and farmland.
The project’s final development plan — which would cover the layout and design of the building and other project specifics — requires a separate approval process that is yet to come, Blackford said.
Rezoning approval sends the project back to the planning commission to begin that process, council chairman Stephen Renner said after the rezoning vote.
Although the development plan is tentative, city records contain details of the proposal for the site east of Hamilton Road.
Plans show up to 24 units in each of 11 3-story residential buildings, with a clubhouse, swimming pool, garages and other amenities included.
Prior to the vote, council members discussed whether the proposal would be consistent with the city’s overall land use plan that was adopted in 2019.
Council member Michael Schnetzer said no.
He said the city had collected residential data that, at a 3-to-1 ratio, favored office and commercial development over medium-density residences in the city’s north gate, which includes Morse Road.
“It’s hard to see how a free-standing multi-family development located along a busy vehicular corridor … responds to the spirit of mixed use,” Schnetzer said.
Council Member Trenton Weaver said the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which broke out around the world in the spring of 2020, and its aftermath has changed public development priorities.
“Clearly we’re getting calls for housing. We’re not getting calls for commercial development like we used to,” he said.
Council member Kaylee Padova said the apartment plan would help the city meet its housing stock diversity goal.
Council member Karen Angelou expressed support for site owner Monica Morgan’s desire to use the property.
Renner advocated a balance between property rights and proper zoning and said the real estate market has changed.
Council’s vote on the rezoning was split 4-3. Schnetzer and board members Merisa Bowers and Nancy McGregor voted “no.”
Stonehenge Co.’s Doug Ervin was among the speakers at the public hearing and said the apartment complex would house 251 to about 400 residents, who will pay city income taxes. He said that 15 of the 22 municipalities surveyed by Stonehenge had a lower income tax rate than Gahanna and that the Regional Income Tax Agency had confirmed that for Gahanna residents working in those municipalities , Gahanna would grasp the difference in tax rates.
“So I’m sort of a job builder, or as far as income tax goes, if you look at it that way,” he said.
Potential apartment rents — $1,400 to $1,900 a month — would provide affordable housing for those earning between $60,000 and $70,000 a year, Ervin said.
He also said Stonehenge had met with officials from two condominium developments to the south – Windward Trace and Amberlea Village – and was committed to maintaining those contacts during the ongoing approval process.
“It’s a participatory process where they are informed, if it were to be rezoned, of our intention, and they would be aware of it before presenting it to a public body,” Ervin said.
Morgan, who said she was exhausted, added: “I really feel like Stonehenge is going to make a great property. They’re going to make it beautiful.”
Dennis Hoffman, who identified himself as president of the Windward Trace association, said that while he was unhappy with the apartment plan, the association met with Ervin several times to express their concerns.
“We hope to continue working with Stonehenge…if this rezoning is approved,” he said.
Edwin Douglas said he was treasurer of the Windward Trace Association and was in favor of maintaining single-family zoning at the site. He said the association would continue to work with Stonehenge to seek changes regarding the association’s concerns.
Leo McCann said he was chairman of the Amberlea Village Association, which he said takes a current position of neutrality towards the project and plans to work with Stonehenge, the city council, the mayor’s office and the planning commission during the development plan process.
Robert Thorn of Creighton Court said he hoped Stonehenge would incorporate green space into its plan, saying no parks were within walking distance of the site.